Are recovery and desire mutually exclusive in DA? I can only speak to my own experience and what I have observed in others. Certainly, I am no DA expert, just another recovering drunk with money.
Desire is not a bad thing when it is closer to preference. But I think desire can become toxic and intertwined with self-will. I can become “drunk with desire.” And often, it is in opposition to my Higher Power’s (HP) will for me, but I am so good at justifying what I want, after so many years as an addict with food, money, relationships, and adrenaline, that it is still hard for me to tell the difference. (By the way, I was an alcoholic too, but for me, I was blessed to let go of that years before the rest of my recovery and for me, alcohol was just liquefied, processed sugar and flour, both of which trigger my compulsion and obsession in any form.)
Cunning, Baffling, and Powerful
“Cunning, baffling, and powerful,” that is what the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says about our illness in Chapter 5: How it Works. So it is no surprise that overwhelming desire, in my opinion, feels like my disease flexing it’s muscles. Desire makes me feel out of control and desperate. Desperation, I have learned, is anathema to my recovery.
So now, when I feel that kind of pressing, overwhelming desire to purchase an item, I wait. Sometimes a day, sometimes a week, and on occasion, months. This is new behavior for me and most uncomfortable. But I have seen over and over that if I wait, my disease backs off and desire becomes preference, and maybe not even the way I anticipated.
As someone who is disabled by an illness triggered by too much adrenaline, I know all too well that I cannot afford any emotion that stirs me up too much … or I will pay for it physically. Maybe I am lucky to have such a direct link between my addictive substance and my reaction.
They say that when the pain of using is worse than the pain you are trying to avoid, you will put down the drug. For me, the pain of desire, which often made me feel as if I would die if I didn’t buy the item, has finally broken me down physically. For me, I would rather go through the process of sitting through that pain, knowing that all things pass, rather than acting when I am in the throes of it.
So, for instance, I know that if I give in to this raging “gotta buy it” now desperation, I will not feel the satisfaction for more than a brief moment. All that adrenaline and desperation are still there, unsatisfied because the item wasn’t really the issue at all.
I have seen over and over that there is always a next item and a next item whether I gave in or not. I have never yet experienced that ultimate “ahhhhhhh” with any purchase for more than a brief time, even when I love the item.
Maybe the Way Time Works is a Factor
We cannot hold on to moments. Each passes. So, for instance, two days ago, I took myself to a movie. It was a fabulous treat for me. I was alone in the theater seeing a great action movie, sitting in exactly the seat I wanted. Oh, how blissful it truly was for me. It was a simple pleasure and I wasn’t gripped by painful desire, yet the experience was sheer delight.
Now, two days later, where is that feeling? There is no way to hold on to time. And not all moments can be blissful. Oh yeah, I would LOVE to recreate that experience. I am an addict and prefer peak experiences. But, for one thing, I don’t have money left for movies this month. And for another, too much of a good thing loses it’s effect on me.
So, today, I sit here writing this post, not feeling at all well. I can remember that experience, but cannot be in it once it is over. That is the nature of life.
Preference or Desire?
In recovery, I have had to learn to manage expectations. Desire or preference? Preference is not as hot, not as exciting, not as momentarily high. But for me desire burns me, wounds me, and leaves me perpetually wanting. I still have desire for things. But the more wound up I get, the sicker I feel and the less I now enjoy it, a stark change in my life for which I am grateful.
For me, I prefer working toward being present in each moment. Savoring those that are blissful when they happen, but not trying to continually recreate that feeling. I am learning to find joy in moments like this, to find peace despite no high, despite pain and discomfort, to just be in each moment as it reveals itself.